Barbara Egger-Jenzer, State Councillor for Public Works, Transport and Energy for the Canton of Berne since 2002, emphasises that in spite of the challenges of the global economic crisis, the canton will continue to pursue ambitious development strategies.
Concerning energy policies, she says, “The canton’s energy strategy must be based on an open market; the state will intervene only when necessary. Our strategic objective is to ensure a reliable and reasonably priced supply of energy for the canton’s businesses and population. A long-term perspective on energy is more essential now than ever.”
In her role as overseer of the canton’s infrastructure projects, Barbara Egger-Jenzer explains, “Infrastructure is the lifeline of a modern society, and weaknesses in transport and energy infrastructures will, sooner or later, slow down economic growth. It is necessary, therefore, for public authorities to make sufficient investments in the construction, development, and maintenance of infrastructure.”
Major infrastructure projects
Recent major infrastructure projects in the Canton of Berne have included the upgrading of Wankdorf Square in Bern City and a subsidy for the Bern West tram line. The canton plans to invest an additional €156.8 million in public transport projects by 2013, including in a new tram line between Ostermundigen and Koniz and in a proposed project to expand Bern’s train station.
Concerning road construction, Barbara Egger-Jenzer says that the Executive Council has adopted an investment programme for the period 2009 to 2012 which has a budget of €108 million more than in the previous period. In addition, she says that the canton has launched a vast investment program to control flooding, a source of problems for the past several years. Flood control measures underway will have an added benefit of creating jobs, she stresses.
A challenge for the government is to finance such projects at a time when a parliamentary mandate has obliged the Executive Council to cut taxes in 2010. Barbara Egger-Jenzer says, “The government will do everything in its power to make sure that our planned investment budget is not affected, but cuts are possible. However, to economise in infrastructure will certainly give a bad signal. Future generations would have to pay dearly to make up for our negligence. In addition, in an economic downturn, public authorities should not cut their expenditures but rather maintain them at a normal level or raise them, to support continued growth.”